Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Thanks NBC: Cheated not Tweeted

Now I know how Conan feels. Minus the 30 million, a new show on TBS and a third-row seat at the Emmys. But let me take you back in time before I discuss last night's half-assedy of execution by NBC of Tweet the Presenters.

In 1987, an open casting call aired on MTV for The New Monkees, a new sit-com based on the old sit-com of a fake-real band (Mike, Micky, Peter and Davey). I was 23 years old, a singer/keyboardist/guitar player, and hungry. I took a train to New York, and a cab to the audition. I was pumped!

Here's what I didn't know: 5,000 people would already be there. It was a national casting call. Why was I surprised? I stood in line for over five hours. There were signs posted along the way that basically said, if you stand in line, you convey rights of your likeness, image, silhouette, voice and soul in perpetuity to the Empire (Viacom I think). MTV itself was filming at different times. Mark Goodman interviewed someone about three people in front of me. By that point had he interviewed me, it wouldn't have been pretty. I was convinced it was all a conspiracy, just a marketing stunt, there was no serious audition, I was an idiot, and we were all there for episode one. For free.

By the time I got to the audition room, they were running us in a few at a time. There was a piano, I had my guitar and none of that was needed. No one was playing. I sat a table for 17 seconds. A dude asked me two questions and I was sent on my way. No chance to perform; no chance to audition. Done. I was disappointed, but also aware actors did this shit every day. Who was I to complain? At least I took a shot, and by "a shot" I mean pay for train tickets, cab, and stand in line for five or six hours, not get interviewed by Mark Goodman and not audition. I was young. I got over it.

I was half right. It turns out two of the band members were already cast - actors do get invites for real auditions, as they should - and according to web accounts, two others made it through the open call. Good for them. So there were some real auditions at some point. The show didn't do very well. No, I don't take total pleasure in that.

Flash forward almost 20 years. G4TV announces an open audition to join Kevin Pereira as his cohost on Attack of the Show. Much better opportunity! I've been following this show since it started as the Screen Savers on ZDTV (Ziff Davis Television), then Tech TV, and then Comcast's G4 before morphing into AOTS.

I was a communications major, I've done radio, I'm a tech guy, I'm comfortable in front of a camera, I've had years of IT/PC experience, love comics, am a gamer, and I'm funny. I. Can. Do. This! They were auditioning in different cities. I followed them all week on G4. They even had a two-page script for prepping and I was ready!!

I'm on the East Coast so it was back to New York again, this time in record-breaking heat. The line wasn't as long as 1987's, but in heat like that it didn't matter. People in line were very nice (and I was hoping CPR certified) and we all made the best of it. There was only one serial-killer looking guy - we got him whatever he wanted and never made eye contact. G4 itself was filming at different times--Hey, wait a minute...

My favorite part? The auditions were upstairs, the elevator was broken, and there was no air conditioning in the building. I thought I might actually pass out in the hallway. When we finally got to the door, they were taking 12 at a time. I'm not kidding. Some folks were nice enough to tell us about their auditions during the day - when they were still auditioning one at a time. By the time we got there I guess the casting company was hotter than we were - so they asked one group question to all 12 of us and wanted a simultaneous response while they videotaped. A cacophony of nonsense. Motherfucker! They got me again.

I did see myself on G4 later that week in a quick pan. That was...cool. Olivia Munn eventually got the gig. Nobody in line looked like Olivia. And she surely didn't have to stand in the heat with us hopefuls. Of course she rocked the part. Her career is taking off and she's now a correspondent on the Daily Show. I'm sincerely very happy for her. If the Daily Show started auditioning writers, I'd stand wherever they told me for as many days as it would take.

But I'm reminiscing. What I really want to talk about are last night's Emmys. The Glee intro was phenom. Jimmy was a great host. And NBC had been hyping up Tweet the Emmys all week. This is an excerpt from the dedicated page on their web site:

"For the first time in Emmy history, you can be a part of the live broadcast via Twitter. Sign into your Twitter account in the box below and then click on one of the Emmy presenters. Tweet something about them and Jimmy may use your tweet as part of his introduction for those presenters during the show! ...Jimmy & our staff will be reading and choosing tweets up to and during the live 2010 Emmy Awards which start at 8E/5Pon Sunday August 29th on NBC."

Forget about visions of being in front of the camera. I've been writing for years, and my dream job is to write for television. It's no secret, it will happen and I'm patient. And there's no such thing as too much practice. But this week's Tweet the Emmys really had me excited. I am a realist. Even if my tweets were good enough, there would be thousands rolling in. And it's such a timing thing. They need to be seen and read, and the way Twitter works, that's always a crap shoot.

Tweets are limited to 140 characters, and for this assignment I really only had 100 characters to work with, after having to include the presenter's full name and a 13-character #imontheemmys hashtag that allows the NBC staffers (OK the one intern who has the same hopes and dreams I do) to see them and sift for gold.

I think by the end of the evening, Jimmy stopped three times to read two tweets. That's a grand total of six tweets and they were awful. NBC hasn't broken any law (they did say "might") but they did break some trust - duping your viewers like that is pretty lame. I'm not claiming my tweets were the best, but I was hoping for just one to make it, or least hear some really funny ones submitted by others.

Here are my entries in the order I sent them since Thursday. You may have to look some of these people up (I did) for reference.

Jim Parsons: #imontheemmys will only present if Sofia Vergara accompanies him to his HS 15-year reunion. Ah. It's in the presental agreement

Stephen Colbert: #imontheemmys On Com Central he excels at exposing truthiness. His next assignment: infiltrate FoxNews & expose doucheyness

Tina Fey: #imontheemmys Sofia Vergara is hot, but meeting Tina Fey? I'd stare at my shoes, mumbling incoherently in awe of my comedy hero.

Matthew Morrison: #imontheemmys It doesn't matter what you say for this presenter, Jimmy, as long as it's with Auto-Tune.

Eva Longoria-Parker: #imontheemmys Hey @NBC. With full presenter names and a 13-character hashtag, that doesn't leave much room for the intr

Sofia Vergara: #imontheemmys I like my coffee like I like my women, just like our next presenter: hot and Colombian. ...or is that my weed?

Jon Hamm: #imontheemmys How is it your lovely, talented partner @JenniferWestfel only has 39 followers on twitter? Can't you hook a girl up?

Jeff Probst: #imontheemmys 2 yearly tropical vacations & demanding they strike "Get set" from his catchphrase "Survivors ready...go!" = Diva

Stephen Colbert: #imontheemmys Stephen Colbert is here! ...Expecting to walk out & then present the award to himself. That's so Glenn Beck.

Tina Fey: #imontheemmys Writer/producer/actor-no time in her crazy schedule to host Discovery Channel's latest: Parasailin' with Sarah Palin

LL Cool J: Boris Kodjoe: #imontheemmys Having an ab-fab flex-off between LL & Boris is not The Event. But it would crush in the ratings.

Stephen Moyer: #imontheemmys As a True Blood vampire with Sookie lust, HBO rejected his own promo suggestion: "Man, I wish I could tap that"

Blair Underwood: #imontheemmys Playing an African-Cuban president is no longer considered an Event. Playing a Black hiker on Funny or Die...

And I'm sure there was some comedy gold tweeted in. But we didn't hear it last night. What did they read? For Tina Fey "Someone one tweeted, Yeah. I'd hit that." For Sophia Vergara "Sophia is beautiful. And she is beautiful. Did I mention she is beautiful?" I know mine weren't great (I think my Probst line was presenter-worthy), but they didn't even fake it.

I might have actually missed all of this if my friend Jo hadn't told me about it last Wednesday. Thank you, Jo!!!!!!! And I had a lot of fun doing it. And there's no such thing as too much practice. Plus, Dot Com and Grizz (in Tracy Morgan's entourage on 30 Rock), both tweeted support for me. That was an amazing feeling.

Did I have fun with each of these experiences? Yes! Did I really expect to make it? Well, yes. Who hopes and dreams "maybe"? My issue: We were never given the chance. MTV wasn't casting, G4 wasn't casting, and NBC wasn't even trying.

I know it was all meant to generate buzz (which each effort did), and get some bodies doing something for free (which is part of the deal). We didn't expect compensation or miracles for any of these, but we did expect more of an effort on the part of the cattle callers.



Jamie Dierks said...

I wondered what the hell all of your #imontheemmys posts were about. Sorry Mike, at least one of yours deserved TV time.

AnnaM said...

Parasailing with Sarah Palin. Eee he he he!

Barb W. said...

Keep the faith it will happen!